What Is Cartage?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Cartage is a term that is often used to identify goods that are carted or transported a relatively short distance, such as from one side of town to another, or even between two towns that are in relatively close proximity. Sometimes known as drayage or haulage, the term can also be used to refer to the actual cost of transporting those goods from one location to another. Consideration of cartage may focus on the methods used in transporting goods for a relatively short distance, or with how those transportation charges are assessed and billed to the recipient of those goods.

As it relates to the actual act of transporting goods from one point to another, cartage will often focus on what means are used to manage the movement of the goods. Depending on how close the destination is to the starting point, any number of methods may be used. For example, if the idea is to move finished goods from a plant to a warehouse located a couple of blocks away, this may be accomplished using a few forklifts with the goods stacked on pallets or even a company vehicle such as a flat bed truck. When the goods are being delivered to a customer on the other side of town, a small transfer truck may be a better approach.


When cartage is used to refer to the transportation charge, the focus is on the total cost involved in managing the hauling. This will often include calculating the amount of resources expended in the effort to move goods from one location to another. Factors such as the cost of fuel, or equipment expenses related to engaging the services of a short haul carrier to move goods to a customer who is a few miles away are usually key to the process of deciding how the charge will be assessed. Even the delivery costs based on a per mile flat rate may be the formula used to determine the cartage involved.

One element that does apply to cartage in either of these applications is the distance between the point of origin and the point of destination. Typically, the term is only used to describe the movement of goods within a relatively small geographical area. While there are exceptions, the term is more likely to be used when transporting goods to locations around a city or a nearby city, not when arranging the shipment of goods to destinations outside the local metropolitan area or region.


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